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A Certain Arc

A Certain Arc: Essays of Finding My Way

David Hamilton
$19.99 | paper with gate-fold | 206p | Isbn 9781948509077

A Certain Arc follows Hamilton through a university career where he encounters and participates in the culture of writers and writing. Beginning with “Hometown,” which portrays his origins, he continues with two essays, one set in Colombia where he plays host for a week to a still-unknown Hunter Thompson, the other in Gabon with his Peace Corps daughter. Next comes a tribute to a former colleague and to the beginnings of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. The probable centerpiece of this collection is “At the Fair,” reflections and anecdotes from three decades of editing The Iowa Review. The collection ends with “Charlottesville,” on his friendship with James Alan McPherson, and the title essay, on experience and its representation in writing, the arc of its flight always caught between appearing and disappearing.

High Praises for A Certain Arc already:

We forget to remember that what we think of now as “creative” nonfiction has not been around for, like, forever. David Hamilton (let’s call him the self-effacing founding father of the self) was there from the startling start, there for the endowing of all the alienating effects, the defamiliarizing of the newly weaponized ordnance of “ordinary” life. A dandy documentary, A Certain Arc, is a kind of fossil record of those revolutionary moments, but it is also a defining demonstration of the form itself—mesmerizing memoirs, murmurations, essay after essay—ecstatic, elegant, elemental, enchanting. Here is profound husbandry, restorative curation. Here are the articles of our confederation, our articulating articulation of our nascent art, our enabling apparatus of our unconventional convening.—Michael Martone author of Brooding and The Moon Over Wapakoneta

Like the map in the kitchen of his childhood farmhouse, David Hamilton’s remarkable essays chart intersecting rivers of time, exploring swirling depths of self and nation, strong currents of love and friendship, and the adventurous waters of his literary calling as a celebrated writer, teacher and editor. An extraordinary, inspiring journey! —John T. Price, author of Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships

Whether reading about Hamilton’s racial awakening as a white child in small-town America, or his behind the scenes anecdotes as long-time editor of the venerable Iowa Review, or his sometimes perplexing conversations with Gabonians while overseas visiting his daughter, you’ll gently wade into each piece at once comforted by the soothing, lyric prose, only to soon find yourself in the deep-end of the heart and mind. This is a masterclass in the art of the essay.—Jerald Walker, author, The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult

David Hamilton is the very definition of literary citizenship. These essays on his life and labors in the service of letters are as rich and storied as they are humble and instructive. From Iowa to Gabon to Barranquilla, you’ll share in his ongoing anticipation and joy of discovery. Reading A Certain Arc: Essays of Finding My Way is like stumbling upon a cachet of seasoned love letters—each one elegantly penned, daringly intimate, and, amazingly, still perfumed.—Marc Nieson, author, Schoolhouse

In settings ranging from the small-town Missouri of his youth, to rural regions of Colombia and Gabon, to his office as editor of The Iowa Review, David Hamilton shows again that he is a brilliant and consummate essayist. Ghosts animate these pieces—which is fitting, given the retrospective nature of memoir—as do colleagues, poets, autofictionists, family, and people he meets on the road. More than just a miscellany, the essays are linked in surprising ways—on video night in Gabon, for instance, who appears on the screen but a high school classmate leading a famous jazz band, a classmate who had suggested, when they were kids, that David might do better if he wasn’t so self-conscious; of course, being in Gabon makes him painfully self-conscious, as does meeting Hunter S. Thompson in Colombia, as do his first years as a professor. Throughout, a large heart takes in the world, and gives it back to us with wisdom.—Tom Lutz, author, The Monkey Learned Nothing: Dispatches from a Life in Transit, founder and editor in chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books

As one would expect from such a distinguished educator and editor, the prose in this collection is beautifully turned, the intelligence luminous, and the experience and wisdom of a lifetime generously shared: this book is a gift to all literature-lovers. But what seems even more striking and rare, in this age of self–absorbed memoir, is the curiosity and openness of its author, his worldly willingness to learn from others–in short, his humility, which is the true mark of an ethically refined sensibility.—Phillip Lopate, author, A Mother’s Tale

This deceptively unassuming book is actually a considerable accomplishment, along the lines of VS Naipaul’s A Way in the World: a sequence of seemingly disparate essays that, together, form a beautiful and powerful narrative of self-knowledge.—David Shields, author, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

David Hamilton might seem to be a late bloomer, but in fact he has been blooming for many years. His lantern was long hidden under the bushel of The Iowa Review, which he edited. It turns out that he was, all along, a writer of extraordinary perception and poise. His account of his days (37 years) at The Review give the best picture I know of the charms and delights—and terrors—of being a devoted servant to writers. He was always a country boy of the most exquisite taste and sophistication. Aw shucks, I exclaim, what a nice guy, and, boy, can he write.—Howard Junker, founding editor of ZYZZYVA

Poet, memoirist, and editor for three decades of the Iowa Review, Hamilton weaves digressive threads into unified tapestries.  He writes about race, gender, and social justice as preoccupations; and about our cultural and personal histories during his lived life.  He is above all a genial, earth-bound intellectual, lover of reading and writing well, and of the natural world.—DeWitt Henry, author of Sweet Marjoram: Notes and Essays

As a fellow longtime literary editor this collection rings especially true to me. Hamilton’s experiences and his writing remind me of why love literature. —Speer Morgan, editor Missouri Review, author, The Freshour Cylinders

David Hamilton was a member of the English Department at the University of Iowa for thirty-seven years, teaching both literature and writing courses. Through most of those years, too, he edited The Iowa Review. His earlier books are Deep River: A Memoir of a Missouri Farm, and Ossabaw and The Least Hinge, a volume and chapbook of poems.